May 30, 2017
A southern tradition provides the fuel for this commentary. Picture an Intensive Care Unit waiting room at a hospital in the Deep South. This hospital is not in a major metropolitan area, but rather a southern town where everyone grew up within a thirty mile radius. Here there still exists a wonderful tradition of “sitting with the family” while a loved one goes through a medical procedure. No doubt variations of this type of family support occur all over the country, but southerners take it to a high level.
The scene involves a large waiting room equipped with bolted chairs set up as a series of “pods”. The walls are decorated with large flat screen TVs, much like a sports bar. Each TV is tuned to a different station, and all are turned to the same volume with no obvious mechanism to vary the sound, or turn the TV off.
As is my preference I sat in the waiting room with my eyes closed trying to sleep, and seeking to be as inconspicuous as is possible. Over the course of several days a pattern of human behavior reveals itself. Scores of people would descend into the waiting room looking for the person whose loved one was having a procedure. These were relatives and friends, all of whom were there to “sit with” the family. The pods became defined encampments for various clans. I somehow found myself aligned with what I will call the Prentiss Clan, as they were from a town called Prentiss.
Over the course of Daddy/Brother/ Cousin Ronnie’s by-pass surgery I learned more about his family than patient Ronnie probably cared that any outsider should know. If he is paranoid about identity theft, my now detailed knowledge of him and his family might push him over the edge. Intimate family details were shared as if everyone was in the privacy of their homes. Other wannabee hospital tribes, should bear in mind that the waiting room of a hospital is not secure.
As day turned into night a second “shift” began to show up ready to share their information. The night crew arrived dressed in sweat pants and leisure wear. They were well equipped with pillows, sleeping bags, and food which would likely not have been approved by the hospital’s dietary experts. The pods transformed into encampments, with only the fire pit missing, and the free flow of family history continued. Common to all the discussions was the ongoing out pouring of personal family information.
Sitting with the family in times of need is an endearing tradition but in today’s age caution and care are essential when sharing information in public around strangers. People’s passwords often revolve around family history. This is the sort of information to keep well away from anyone whose trustworthiness is unknown.